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Employment Tribunal update

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14/10/2019

A round-up of Employment Tribunal news and an invite to our next employment Breakfast Briefing.

It is no surprise that, since Employment Tribunal fees were abolished in July 2017, the number of employment claims submitted continues to follow an upward trend (a 26% increase year on year). The recent quarterly and annual tribunal statistics for 2018/19 contain some interesting points:

  • Less claimants are using lawyers. 64% of claimants were represented by a lawyer compared to 74% in 2017/18.
  • More claimants are representing themselves. 21% had no representative which was up from 17% in 2017/18.
  • Average compensation for unfair dismissal and all forms of discrimination (except age) has dropped. The average award for unfair dismissal was £13,700 (although the highest award made in 2018/19 was a staggering £947,000).
  • Less compensation awards are being made. There was an overall decrease in the number of awards for discrimination from 136 in 2017/18 to 103 in 2018/19 (this drop in average compensation and actual awards could be related to the fact that fewer claimants are legally represented).
  • Notably, sex discrimination claims have risen by 69%, from 5,522 claims in 2017/18 to 9,336 in 2018/19.
  • Tribunals are making fewer costs awards than in previous years. Only 209 costs orders were made in 2018/19 compared to 479 in the previous year. Of these, 158 were made in favour of employers and 51 in favour of claimants.
  • Between January and March 2019, around a quarter of cases were disposed of through ACAS conciliated settlements, 22% were withdrawn, 11% were struck out and 11% went to final hearing.

Delays

The increase in claims, coupled with funding cutbacks and failure to replace retiring employment judges, has led to delays in cases reaching hearing. Recent statistics show that the average duration of a single claim from inception through to disposal was 33 weeks which is a six week increase on the 2018 statistics. This should be viewed against the fact that the Ministry of Justice target is to dispose of 75% of cases within 26 weeks. The time taken for cases to reach hearing has risen for the fourth year in a row with complex or multi-day claims often being listed for hearing up to a year in advance.

Delays in Tribunal claims are, for now, a fact of life although it is hoped that the situation will improve over time as more employment judges are recruited. In the meantime, the potential adverse impact of delays on legal costs, management time and witnesses’ memories should be factored into overall case strategies. Whilst delays can be frustrating, they can sometimes be used to a tactical advantage.

Invitation to our Breakfast Briefing

Our employment team have experience of assisting employers with employment tribunal tactics and strategy and this is the main topic of our next employment breakfast briefing on Thursday 14 November 2019. At the briefing, we will focus on providing practical and strategic advice on handling Tribunal claims from cradle to grave in order to achieve the best outcomes.

We will draw on recent appeal decisions, legislative developments and our own real-life experiences of the Tribunal system to provide you with a 360◦ update of need-to-know points. You will come away better equipped to deal effectively with claims and answer questions from your board about risk and strategy.

Please click here if you would like to register to attend.

Contacts